What is Michigan's statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit?
First, a little background: A "statute of limitations" is a law that impacts your right to file a lawsuit. Specifically, it sets a strict limit on the amount of time you have to get your case started in court. If the deadline has passed and you try to file the lawsuit, it's a safe bet that the defendant—in the context of a medical malpractice case, that's the doctor or health care facility you're trying to sue—will ask the court to dismiss the case. And if the court grants that request (as it almost certainly will), that's the end of the lawsuit. So it's crucial to pay attention to the statute of limitations as it applies to your case.
Now, onto the specifics of Michigan's statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases. The standard deadline, in Michigan Compiled Laws section 600.5805(6), gives you two years to get your lawsuit filed in the state's court system, starting from the date when the alleged medical error was committed.
But there is another Michigan law that could extend the filing deadline. Michigan Compiled Laws section 600.5838a says that a medical malpractice case must be filed within the standard two-year time period or "within six months after the plaintiff discovers or should have discovered the existence of the claim, whichever is later." Keep in mind that if you are relying on this six-month rule, as the plaintiff you have the burden of proving that you did not discover—and could not have reasonably discovered—the existence of the claim.
However, Michigan also has an outside deadline for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit (known as a "statute of repose") of six years after the medical error, regardless of when it was or should've been discovered. The only exceptions are cases where the defendant fraudulently concealed the error, or when the malpractice led to "permanent loss of or damage to a reproductive organ resulting in the inability to procreate." In those two situations, there is no larger six-year deadline.
(To find the full text of the statutes discussed in this article, search on the Library of Congress's Guide to Law Online.)
by: David Goguen, J.D.